Are increased patient loads driving up the cost of care?

Jul 17, 2014 | Hospital Finance Efficiency

Faced with shrinking reimbursements for care and an increased number of patients seeking treatment under the Affordable Care Act, physicians find themselves seeing more patients per day to keep their practice or facility afloat. Unfortunately, a study by Johns Hopkins has found that not only can this affect the quality of patient care, it can lead to increased treatment costs. 

The study surveyed 506 U.S. hospitals to see what effects the increased patient loads have had. Among the responding providers, the average age was 38 and more than half worked in community hospitals.

More than a quarter reported that their workload exceeds safe levels multiple times per month. And in what could be a warning sign for the industry, 22 percent of the respondents reported ordering costly and potentially unnecessary tests, procedures or consults because they didn't have time to properly assess patients assigned to their care. 

However, what might be more concerning was that this study took place in January of 2013, before the Affordable Care Act reached full coverage.

"If a hospitalist is short on time and a patient is having chest pains, for example, the doctor may be more likely to order additional tests, prescribe aspirin and call a cardiologist – all because there isn't adequate time to immediately and fully evaluate the patient," study leader Henry J. Michtalik, M.D, told John Hopkins Medicine. 

Dr. Michtalik went on to explain that hospitals need to make a greater effort to ensure safe levels of work for their providers, in order to manage costs and increase the quality of patient care. 

If your facility is currently experiencing a backlog in medical accounts receivable because of increased patient loads, considering outsourcing accounts receivable management to Professional Medical Services